More MRFF funding announced for Deakin

Deakin University health and social work researchers have received more than $2.75 million in the latest round of Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grants, specifically for projects to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for LGBTIQA+ people.

The funding is in addition to the almost $9.5 million in MRFF grants awarded to Deakin in February and is part of the largest ever investment in LGBTIQA+ health research by an Australian government.

It recognises that LGBTIQA+ people have unique and often complex health needs, and difficulty getting appropriate health care, which can lead to poorer physical and mental health outcomes.

‘We know that there are unacceptable disparities in health outcomes and significant barriers to getting the health care LGBTIQA+ people deserve,’ said Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Ged Kearney MP.

Deakin’s Associate Professor Alison KennedyDr James LucasDr Amie O’Shea and Dr Louisa Smith will lead research projects that seek to overcome these barriers and improve care for LGBTIQA+ people.

Caring for young LGBTIQA+ people in rural communities

Deakin health researchers have received almost $2 million to develop and implement a safe spaces model of primary healthcare (SSMPH) for sexuality diverse young people in rural Western Victoria.

Co-designed with the sexuality diverse community, the model will be embedded in local health services for young people aged 12-25 years.

The research is led by the School of Medicine’s Associate Professor Kennedy, Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH), and Dr Lucas and Dr O’Shea, from Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) and School of Health and Social Development.

The project will combine systems thinking and health economics in an innovative whole-of-community systems approach to support health services and consumer advocates in building safe and equitable rural primary healthcare ‘from the ground up and the inside out’.

‘The intersectional needs of sexuality diverse young people in rural communities are a national and local priority and primary healthcare services are a key first-point-of-call in addressing those needs,’ Associate Professor Kennedy says.

‘Intersectional needs’ refers to how people may experience overlapping forms of discrimination or disadvantage based on attributes such as race, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexuality.

The research team at Deakin, which includes Professor Suzanne Robinson (Director of IHT’s Deakin Health Economics), Professor Gary Rogers (Dean of Medicine), Professor Susan Brumby, and Dr Jo Macdonald (NCFH) will initially focus on working with key community groups and organisations, consumer advocates and local health services across Western Victoria to co-design the SSMPH, before looking at community-driven implementation of the model.

A key feature is establishing a scalable prototype for a whole-of-community systems approach to co-designing and implementing models of primary healthcare that meet the intersectional needs of sexuality diverse young people in rural communities that can be adapted in other communities, including raising awareness and delivering education and training for mainstream primary healthcare providers on the needs of LGBTIQA+ young people.

Professor Alison Kennedy, Dr James Lucas and Dr Amie O’Shea will develop and implement a safe spaces model of primary healthcare for sexuality diverse young people in rural Western Victoria.

Improving care for LGBTIQA+  people living with dementia

Dr Louisa Smith’s funding of almost $755,000 will refine and implement an existing model of care concept called SAGE-Dem that has arisen from long term and ongoing consultation with community peers supporting people with sexuality and gender experiences (SAGE) living with dementia.

‘People living with dementia who have minority sexuality and gender experiences are a diverse and under-served group. After lifetimes of discrimination, people living with SAGE and dementia may avoid or resist aged and health care services which assume heterosexual and cisgendered consumers,’ Dr Smith says.

‘LGBTIQ+ community-controlled organisations don’t have expertise about dementia and mainstream aged and health care providers don’t have the cultural competence to support LGBTIQ+ people. SAGE-Dem is a world-first model of care designed to improve the physical and mental health of people with SAGE who experience the intersectional disadvantage of dementia.’

With a twin focus of increasing the cultural competence of the health and aged care workforce and the dementia awareness of LGBTIQ+ community-controlled organisations and communities, implementing the co-designed model of care will be supported by the development and evaluation of an intersectional cultural competence framework and a training and engagement toolkit.

‘Improving the cultural competence, or knowledge, skills and attitudes about a group of people you don’t belong to, and the dementia awareness of those supporting people with SAGE living with dementia are key to improving their physical and mental health outcomes,’ Dr Smith says.

Dr Smith’s research team includes Alfred Deakin Professor Alison Hutchinson, Co-director of IHT’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS) and IHT’s Dr Joanne Watson, Dr Renee Fiolet and Dr Amie O’Shea.

Dr Louisa Smith’s project seeks to improve care for people with sexuality and gender experiences (SAGE) living with dementia.

Deakin’s Q-UEERS Network

Dr Lucas, Dr O’Shea and Dr Smith are founding members of Q-UEERS (Queering-Up Equity and Equality Research Spaces) – a group of Queer academic researchers at Deakin whose work promotes the ABCs of Living Queer (Authenticity, Belonging and Connection).

For more information, contact